How Can We Define the Smart City?

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With the continuing growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices, ‘smart city’ has become more than just a buzzword – around the world, more cities are adopting smart technology.

However, there is still no concrete definition as to what a smart city is, as there are a lot of factors at play. Cities across the world are at different levels of development, have different resources available, and different aspirations; this means that there is not necessarily one definition for a smart city, and the term can mean different things in different countries.

At its core, smart cities are developed with the goal of improving the quality of life for citizens, using data and digital technology to achieve this. From security to transport to communications, adopting smart applications can provide a range of benefits for residents.

In fact, according to a report from McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), smart city applications can improve some key quality-of-life indicators like health and safety, by 10 to 30 per cent.


The Generic Smart City

Fundamentally, a smart city is a re-developed area or city, implementing ‘smart’ technologies to enhance the efficiency and quality of services such as transportation, connectivity, energy, utilities, etc.

A smart city can be considered as the framework in which an intelligent network of connected objects work and communicate, transmitting data using the cloud and wireless technology.

Enterprises and residents are given the power to make better decisions to improve the quality of life, with the ability to access real-time data, which is received and managed by cloud-based IoT applications. These decisions can help improve things such as:

  • Energy disruption
  • Traffic congestion
  • Internet connectivity
  • Cost efficiency


The Need for Smart Cities

Whilst many of the benefits of smart cities focus on the improved quality of life, from a practical point of view, smart cities are becoming more of a necessity than a luxury, and this is due to this continuing global urbanisation, with city populations continually growing.

Already, the increase in the human population is leading to megacities, such as New York, London and Tokyo, to become overcrowded.

According to a report from the UK Department of Transport, Britain is one of the most congested countries in the world; in London alone there were 5.4 per cent more passengers than the capacity during morning rush-hour periods in 2017.

As a result, cities have been developing plans to implement smart technologies to tackle the issues created by urbanisation. For example, in 2017, Sadiq Khan – Mayor of London released details of the Smart London plan.


Public Safety

As more cities are implementing smart technology, concerns have arisen around safety and security. Specifically, the reliance on digital technology has lead to an increase in the risk of cyber crimes and data thefts.

However, smart city developers are well aware of these dangers, and so security is a huge focus in smart city developments, and ensuring smart cities are prepared to tackle any potential threats is a top priority.

As well as protecting the public from the dangers created from smart cities create when they’re developed, they also improve existing public safety services. For example, highly-accurate real-time data has the potential to improve emergency response times and reduce fatalities.

Figures from MGI’s smart cities report found that smart technologies could reduce fatalities by eight to 10 per cent and lower crime incidents by 30 to 40 per cent.

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